I recently saw Cannibal Corpse live for the very first time after having listened to them since high school; like most metalheads my age, I discovered the band around the time of The Bleeding and their infamous cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and was blown away by their ability to mix over-the-top lyrical and visual gore with utterly eviscerating riffage. Finally seeing them live took me back to that time, those first sticky fumblings with death metal, loving it and being repulsed by it at the same time and loving that bizarre mixed feeling, wondering what people would think if I told them I was heavily into a band that had songs called “Fucked with a Knife” and “Stripped, Raped and Strangled.” But seeing them live wasn’t all misty-eyed headbanging nostalgia, it re-affirmed that Cannibal Corpse are still a force to be reckoned with; titans of death metal who have made a career out of pumping out some of the most quality-consistent, full-on brutal music the genre has to offer.
Such is the case with Torture; album number twelve finds Cannibal Corpse being Cannibal Corpse, nothing more, nothing less and I am totally satisfied with that. In fact it amazes me when people criticize Cannibal Corpse (as well as other veteran bands) calling their new albums “just more of the same” and such… well yes, of course it’s more of the same, were you expecting a rock opera about the life of Christ?! I’m not saying they are above criticism, but I do think it’s a tad silly to expect a band that’s had their feet firmly rooted in gruesome death metal to suddenly evolve out of that after over two decades in the game. Besides, I think by now everyone knows that when a respected metal band takes an unexpected stylistic left turn, it usually isn’t pretty; call it “The Metallica Syndrome.”
It took Cannibal Corpse a few albums to find their footing after ditching Chris Barnes for George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, but the band have been on a remarkably solid streak since 2004’s The Wretched Spawn; the quintet have upped both their technical wizardy and production values while maintaining a knack for memorable riffs and structures. In this respect Torture can be viewed as the culmination of Cannibal Corpse’s post-Barnes musical and aesthetic journey; it’s probably the most varied album in the band’s catalogue and certainly ranks among the catchiest. They aren’t bringing anything new to the table here (who the hell would want them to?), but they continue to refine and improve upon their sound without losing sight of what makes Cannibal Corpse special. Songs such as “Intestinal Crank” “As Deep As the Knife Will Go” and “Followed Home then Killed” bring the bloodthirsty ultra-violence in a way that only these guys can; frenzied yet painstakingly contructed and played.
Overall, Torture is exactly what you’d expect from Cannibal Corpse, no alarms and no surprises, and yet there’s something about it that still manages to sound exciting and fresh. Perhaps it’s the thick ‘n’ chunky Erik Rutan production job, or the band’s increased emphasis on shaking things up in the tempo department; Cannibal Corpse seem more willing than ever to let off the gas here, giving the songs more of a chance to sink in like red-hot blades through tender, trembling flesh. It could simply be the fact that they’ve lost none of the maniacal, grisly energy and enthusiasm that has possessed them since day one. Whatever the case, I take comfort in the fact that Cannibal Corpse is still out there after all these years, doing what they do best.